Pando

Your monthly helping of serious ridesharing allegations

By Nathaniel Mott , written on November 17, 2015

From The Sharing Economy Desk

Welcome to the fourth installment of Pando’s monthly series examining the misdeeds perpetrated by or against drivers for so-called ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.

This series was always meant to examine drivers for all the most popular ridesharing services, but in practice it’s been restricted to Uber because I couldn’t find much of anything from other companies. That changes with this post: I was actually able to find two incidents involving Lyft drivers. Sure, that number pales compared to the many incidents involving Uber drivers, but at least now this series will continue to look at ridesharing in general instead of only discussing one company.

With that said, let’s see what happened in the last month or so.

Uber – and Lyft! – drivers behaving badly

The most recent incident occurred in China on November 10 when an Uber driver was accused of overcharging a high school student 8,430 yuan for a ride that typically cost 20 yuan. That’s equivalent to being charged more than $1,300 for a ride that should have cost no more than $3. The driver said he didn’t mean to overcharge the student – he claimed to have forgotten to end the ride when he should have – and reportedly offered to refund the fare to the student’s father.

A day earlier, in Boston, a former Uber driver allegedly pulled two police officers roughly 100 yards with his vehicle after he was stopped for driving dangerously. The company told CBS Boston that the driver had been removed from its service weeks prior to the incident because of “earlier driving problems.” Reporters found that the driver had a criminal record that would’ve prevented him from driving a taxi, but apparently didn’t stop him from driving for Uber’s service.

Another former Uber driver in Boston pleaded not-guilty to sexual assault charges on November 7. The driver, Alejandro Done, was convicted in October for raping a woman in 2014. When he provided a DNA sample after that arrest, police connected him to four other assaults that took place between 2006 and 2010. He was sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison for the 2014 rape.

An Uber driver in London was convicted of sexual assault charges on November 5 for telling a passenger he wanted to have sex with her before inappropriately touching her. When she left, the driver, Samson Haile, picked up an off-duty police officer and reportedly tried to talk her into having sex too. He was sentenced to eight months in prison and will be prohibited from driving a private taxi service in England and Wales following his release.

On November 3, an Uber driver in India who was convicted of raping a passenger last December was sentenced to life in prison. The man was previously accused of rape, but he is said to have used false references to evade Uber’s background check. Uber was banned from operating in New Delhi after the rape; the city’s government allowed it to come back in July.

An Uber driver in Fremantle, Australia was arrested on October 31 for failing a breath test. (The law in Fremantle, as in the United States, considers a blood-alcohol content of more than 0.08 percent grounds for arrest.) The driver was arrested at 4am while ferrying three passengers.

This is where the Lyft driver comes in. Courthouse News Service reported on October 30 that a woman has sued both her driver and Lyft itself. The woman vomited in the driver’s vehicle; he then followed her into her home and demanded sex in exchange for waiving a clean-up fee. The woman said she was able to push the driver off of her and convince him to leave her home.

Just a day earlier, news broke about an Uber driver in St. Petersburg, Florida being arrested for offering a ride to a woman in exchange for oral sex. She took him up on the offer, and both were arrested on “prostitution and lewd and lascivious behavior counts.” The woman has been charged with a felony because she was previously convicted of other prostitution charges.

On October 28, the Portland Mercury reported that a woman was picked up by a man pretending to be an Uber driver. She was able to leave the vehicle without incident, and the report said that no threats of violence were made, but Portlandians have been advised to confirm that someone is a licensed Uber driver before they enter an unknown vehicle. Uber impostors seem to have become more and more common over the last several months.

News broke on October 23 of a man claiming to be an Uber driver in Sydney, Australia who reportedly stopped for condoms before raping his female passenger. The alleged driver – Uber said at the time that it was investigating his claims of driving for its service – said he was between shifts when he picked up the tourist and had what he called consensual sex.

Finally, an Uber driver in San Francisco threatened to rape and kill a writer for SFist on October 16. The incident started when the driver couldn’t find the writer and called her, screaming obscenities. Then, when she canceled the ride, he found her and threatened to rape and kill her. Uber said it removed the driver from its platform and refunded the $5 cancellation fee it charged. The writer has pressed charges against the driver and is working with authorities on the case.

Bad things happening to Uber drivers

Cabbies and Uber drivers have a sour relationship around the world. That point was driven home over the last month, first when a taxi driver in Australia threatened an Uber driver and dumped coffee in his vehicle, and then when cabbies in Uruguay blocked access to Uber training sessions. In both cases the taxi drivers protested that Uber drivers threaten their livelihoods.

Uber drivers also fear the company’s managers. First an Uber driver in the United Kingdom was reportedly threatened by a manager for establishing a union to improve working conditions. The manager’s email warned against violating the company’s partner agreement by unionizing – this could lead to the driver being forced off the service. Then another driver who asked Uber policy head David Plouffe about Uber’s claims about how much drivers can expect to make said he was afraid that he would be “deactivated” if he took Plouffe’s suggestion of meeting with Uber.

A now-former Taco Bell executive, Benjamin Golden, drunkenly attacked an Uber driver, who captured the assault with a dashcam and stopped it by hitting Golden with pepper spray. The video of the altercation has been watched more than 2 million times. Golden was charged with assault and battery, and driver Edward Caban has sued him for more than $25,000 in damages.

Before that an Uber driver was arrested in New Hampshire for videotaping a bouncer trying to convince him to stop driving for the company. The arrest resulted from New Hampshire’s restrictive wiretapping laws, which are meant to stop anyone from recording another person without their explicit consent. (The driver is also a “Ron Paul revolution activist,” which is why the arrest was written up in the libertarian Reason magazine.)

Earlier, police in Chesterfield, Virginia searched for a man who robbed and abducted an Uber driver. The man is said to have stolen the female Uber driver’s purse and phone; used her debit card to withdraw funds from a bank; and make several other stops after he forced the woman into the trunk of her vehicle at gunpoint.

I’m not sure where to put this

This last one’s a little harder to define. A woman who believed her Lyft driver was kidnapping her jumped out of the vehicle’s passenger door and, in the process, broke her ankle. Why did she think she was being kidnapped? Because she thought the driver was ignoring her questions about why he deviated from the route she expected him to take. And why did he seem to be ignoring those questions? Turns out it’s because he’s deaf and couldn’t hear her. So, yeah.